They say that slow and steady wins the race and it may be especially true of a World Cup but Argentina really need to get going sooner rather than later if they’re to land the trophy. And by Argentina, maybe it’s just easier to say everyone but Lionel Messi. The little magician has carried his side to the latter stages, scoring a screamer to win the game against Iran along with the winner against Bosnia, and then two belters against Nigeria to seal a nine point group haul.
Against the Swiss, he was marked into submission for much of the 120-minute bore-fest but when it counted, was able to find Angel Di Maria to slot home. While Argentina’s victory before penalties was not exactly undeserved – they’d made much of the running even if during the first half – it was a lacklustre, drab performance that isn’t likely to be good enough even against Belgium, who have also played well below their best this tournament.
Argentina are evens in normal time but that makes no appeal on the evidence we’ve seen and the Belgians themselves, who finished poorly against the USA in their first serious test, Algeria apart, also need to up their game. Tactics will be crucial – when Nigeria came out to Argentina they looked like a side that was worthy of their tournament price for once – but if Belgium sit deep then they have the defence to keep Argentina frustrated and at arm’s length with the exceptional Thibaut Courtois in goal and this looks best left.
Already Advised – Tournament
8 pts Argentina (7/2 Winner, 3/1 general)
1 pt each/way Italy (33/1 general)
1 pt each/way France (20/1 Sportingbet, 18/1 Ladbrokes, 16/1 general)
1 pt each/way Colombia (33/1 Sportingbet, 25/1 general)
To reach semi-final
5 pts Argentina (19/20 Bwin)
1 pt France (4/1 general)
1 pt Italy (5/1 general)